‘Punshiment doesn’t fit’: Emily Grover, mom battling prosecutors over hacking claims | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

Prosecutors in Florida have described Emily Grover and her mother Laura Rose Carroll of tarnishing the dignity of homecoming and rattling parents with their actions. Grover’s family, friends, and teachers meanwhile say she has become “a sacrificial lamb” in a tech mix-up. Those two narratives are at the heart of the case against Grover and Carroll, who are accused of hacking a homecoming vote at the Escambia County School District.

The pair have been slapped with a large number of charges, and currently looking at 16 years in prison, far more than what most ransomware hackers would receive. The US is currently on high alert, after a string of cyber attacks on key infrastructure like the Colonial pipeline, and even New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). But all those attacks have been linked to foreign actors, usually China or Russia. 


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Amidst these deadly attacks, Grover and Carroll’s hack of a school district may seem like no big deal, but that’s not the case prosecutors are making. In an interview with The Daily Beast, the two claim they have become “town pariahs” because of investigators’ ambitions. It’s led to a major battle both in and out of court over the punishment they should receive. 

Emily Rose Grover (Florida Department of Law Enforcement)


‘Police acted like they were Al Capone’

As we previously reported, Carroll and Grover hacked the district’s homecoming vote, so that Carroll would earn the homecoming queen title at Tate High School in 2020. The school quickly noticed something was amiss and contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), whose investigation led to the arrest of the duo in March 2021. For locals, it was a crime of huge proportions. Reportedly, the homecoming event “is the town’s Oscars night,” and so when the truth came out, people were more than furious. 

Carroll was fired from her job, and the school even expelled Grover. But it didn’t end there. Reportedly, the police swarmed their house minutes after getting an arrest warrant. “Police acted like they were freaking Al Capone,” their lawyer Randy Etheridge said. They’ve also been slapped with three third-degree felony charges and one first-degree misdemeanor charge. Both Grover and Carroll face 16 years in prison if convicted.

“The school board pushed this as the absolute crime of the century,” Etheridge added. He says they’ve blown it out of proportion, especially since no personally identifiable information was stolen. That’s the narrative the mother and daughter are also pushing. 

‘Not pleading guilty to something we didn’t do’

We’re not pleading guilty to something we didn’t do. If there was any crime committed, the punishment doesn’t fit,” Carroll said. But, at The Beast noted, a lot of the troubles they face can be traced back to their unwillingness to cooperate. She refused to open up when questioned by the school district, and when the cops got involved, she lawyered up. The duo was also offered a no-jail plea, which they refused.

‘They expected us to say, ‘Yeah, we did it’—but we didn’t. We just didn’t answer their questions the way they wanted us to,” Carroll admitted. It’s unclear why they aren’t cooperating, but they appear to be saying that they aren’t directly responsible for the vote. Etheridge has argued that 124 votes linked to Carroll’s cell phone were actually cast in a 20-minute time period, which he says is “not humanly possible.” Furthermore, he argued that “the app has generated reports based on multiple time zones.”

“There are so many layers to this case; it’s so warped and twisted,” Carroll added. What the truth is, still remains a mystery. But so far, the evidence appears to lead back to Grover and Carroll, which has turned out very badly for them. Carroll rarely leaves the house these days, but it’s a lot worse for Grover. She’s lost 20 pounds, was forbidden from graduating with her class, and had her offer from the University of Western Florida revoked. 

Apart from pleading not guilty, the duo has begun opening up to the media. They’ve given interviews with ABC and ‘Good Morning America’, ahead of their trial. “She’s 18 years old and this affects her earning potential and her image,” Carroll said. But it appears few people have sympathy for them. Grover is now the butt of jokes and trolling, while Carroll’s effectively been forced into hiding.

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